I recently installed a set of Bushwacker fender flares onmy2013 Toyota FJ Cruiser. It was a change from the naked look I was previously rocking—byI, I mean myFJof course. In other words, I had removed the stock fenders a while back, and now I’ve gone from no fenders to these Bushwacker ones. The addition gives the cruiser a beefier look, while also making it look somehow more polished. It looks great! Here are the basic steps I went through to install them.
Opening the Package
I received the box for the kit—a very, VERY big box—and opened itupto check out the parts. I laid them all out and read over the manual, which describes all of the components that should be included and walks through the installation process step-by-step. Everything looked like it should, so I got to work.
Preparing the Area
First, I needed to clean and prep the areas of the FJ where the Bushwackers would be going. I happened to have a sticker on that area on one side, so I had to carefully remove it with a razor blade. Then, I cleaned off as much of the dirt and grime as I could from the area around the wheel wells. MyFJ goes ona lot of adventures, so there was a lot of dirt. I used a wax-type cleaner todo the job. Next, I needed to make a minor modification to the lower body molding on the cruiser. There is a part of the plastic trim that extends slightly into the wheel well, which would bein the way of the new fenders. I simply cut that piece off in a smooth line down, following the shape of the wheel well. Lastly, I removed the bolts from the inside of the wheel well to make room for the new bolts I would be using as part of the installation—all of which is described in detail in the manual, of course.
Prepping the Fenders
There were only a few simple steps required to prepare the fender flares. First, I puton the included trim liner, a thin strip of rubbery material that forms a transitional seam from the fender to the truck body. It sticks right on the fenders, not on the truck. I was careful to run the liner smoothly along the edge of the fender and around all the curves, so that it stuck well. Next, I puton the decorative nuts and bolts that line the fender for that tough-looking style.
The next step was to put the fenders on the FJ and bolt them on from underneath. One of the fasteners included in the kit is a specialty pin-type fastener rather than a bolt, and it goes in a specific hole; again, all is explained well in the manual. I started with the front wheels, and had an easy time with it; it was assimple as setting the fender in place, fastening it on, and repeating on the other side. Then I moved onto the back fenders, which took more effort and most of the time to install. For the back wheels, the fender flares come in two pieces which need tobe bolted together. I also had to make a modification to the fenders on the back, because I have an Expedition One Trail bumper installed and they couldn’t fit with it without modification. After determining where to cut, I put the Dremel tool to work and carefully carved some of the edge off in a square shape to frame the bumper, until the fit was just right. Then I went to work on the smaller piece which goes on the end of the fender at the bottom of the arc. I modified itin a similar way, carving out a rectangular section to make room for my bumper. I repeated the modifications on the rear fenders for the other side as well. After that, I bolted the pieces together and finally, installed them on both sides.
The Finished Look
From start to finish, this entire project took me about 5 hours. A significant chunk of that time was likely because ofmy bumper which required extra work to make the Bushwackers fit. After all was said and done, I’m definitely satisfied with the results. They look good and add something extra to the overall appearance ofmy cruiser. I would recommend these fender flares for their (general) ease and simplicity of installation, and for the way they complement the FJ’s look so well.
Body molding before modification
Body molding after modification
The finished look
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Summer 2016 Issue:
They came from all parts of the country; each sharing a common love affair with adventure, family, and camaraderie that many believe only a Toyota 4x4 can evoke.
From Coast-to-Coast, Texas, to the Northern Border they came. It had never been done in all of the Americas. What started as an informal gathering of a few likeminded Land Cruiser owners in 2015, evolved this year to an unprecedented gathering of over twenty 200 Series Land Cruiser owners in the famous western playgrounds of Moab, Utah and Ouray, Colorado.
Twenty does not sound like a large number, but sightings of late model Land Cruisers are about as rare as seeing a news Rolls-Royce. (Rolls-Royce and Toyota Land Cruiser sales in the US were roughly the same last year). Could it be the stories, the pictures, or perhaps the banter from 2015 that led to this historic gathering? Or was it the fast growing wanderlust seed planted when many purchase their first Land Cruiser, or when watching an episode of an Overland series on YouTube? What drove a gathering of nearly 2 million dollars’ worth of metal to congregate at one place?
Cody Golliher, who resides with his family in Fort Collins, CO, is the organizer of the 200 Series gathering. “I attended FJ Summit several times in the very beginning and it was so much fun to see so many people who shared my same interest and passion,” said Golliher. “It ended up growing so big that it filled up quickly and I was unable to attend. I really wanted to keep going to Ouray with other enthusiasts so I decided to see if there was any interest in other 200 Series Land Cruiser owners who would like to go, and the rest is history.”
Travis Wilcox proposed a great idea to the group: “It’s only 3 hours from Ouray- Let’s also do Moab as a Pre-Run.” And so it was on! The early adventurers arrived in Moab a few days ahead of the larger gathering that would soon convene all arrive in Ouray. This group of six set their sights on the legendary slick rock and rugged trails near Moab. Hells Revenge, Fins & Things, and Top of the World trails gave little resistance to the fully equipped 200 Series Land Cruisers while offering amazing views and memories over tightly gripped steering wheels and taunt seatbelts. It was a textbook demonstration of the rugged and refined capabilities and features of the latest version of Toyota’s flagship vehicle.
Photo by Ken Reiten
The gods of Moab sought to disrupt the plans to make it to the summit of the Top of the World Trail -throwing lightning bolts, rain, and obstacles that had some questioning the destination. Were the imaginary gods on the side of those who believed the 200 Series Land Cruiser was an $85,000+ mall mobile? The people on this adventure knew better. With only a ½ mile and 500 feet elevation to reach the infamous ledge rock at the summit, the group put safety first and spread out until there was a break in the lightning storm.
Once all was safe and we traversed the rest of the way, the rewards at the summit were majestic views that only the combination of the wet landscape, fog, and the sunlight that illuminated them could have provided. Greg Weik’s Phantom 4 drone was launched, and epic pictures and videos ensued. The next morning, the group set out on a three-hour drive that would put this group in Ouray just as others began arriving from all parts of the country in anticipation of the historic gathering.
Photo by Greg Weik
It was the afternoon of August 4th in a small park near a picturesque Gazebo in Ouray when history was made. Twenty-one 200 Series Land Cruisers, ranging in years from 2008 to 2016, had gathered in the small town known to be a basecamp for large 4x4 events such as FJ Summit. More than 60 souls convenedmet to get to know each other, share food and drink, share our rig upgrades, and watch our kids blow bubbles and play. “I envisioned a gathering that was intimate where friends were made and families could play. We all have a love for Land Cruisers but I wanted more than just wheeling and a corporate style event,” said Golliher. The gathering was exactly that.
The next three days provided breathtaking trails across the San Juan Mountains including Engineer Pass, Poughkeepsie Gulch, Imogene Pass, and the formidable and feared Black Bear Pass-in the rain. For some, it would be the first true test of their stock or modified Land Cruiser. Yes, these are also cushy rides with heated leather seats, 18-speaker sound system and a built-in refrigerated cooler in the console. Don’t let that fool you. The observed smiles said it all—the kind of smile you see when your daughter kicks her first soccer goal or you son puts a ball through the hoop for the first time. in his first basket. These Toyotas really are Legendary. They really do defy logic and physics to overcome the obstacles ahead with unsurpassed reliability and safety.
Photo by Greg Weik
In the lower valley in Ouray, a highlight of the event was the Slee Off-road Road-sponsored group gathering for drinks and dinner. Friendships were forged and social media connections were made. The kids spoke of the Pokémon they caught and, with equal excitement, the elk they saw earlier in the day.
Golliher has pondered the future for the group. “I really like the idea of destination places each year. I love Ouray but there are so many other great places to visit,” he said. “It's not just off-roading but seeing new places with your friends and family. It will get more challenging as we grow but we'll adjust as it happens. I do not envision this ever becoming a big sponsored event, but one that stays true to people and enjoying great company.”
On the last day, the skies sky’s cleared to reveal the true beauty of this area. The blue sky, clean mountain air, the small stream crossings, and the majestic mountain views clearly demonstrated why this area is called the “Switzerland of the U.S.A.”. That evening, the group all gathered once more to break bread, enjoy a home grown brew, and share stories of the day. Goodbyes, handshakes, and hugs were abundant, - but so was the talk at every table….of next year.
If you have a 200 series Land Cruiser (2008-2017) and would like to join the adventure, be on the lookout for postings for the next adventure slated for 2017 on the 200 series IH8MUD forum. Special thanks to photographers for their submissions. See more of Ken Reiten’s work at reiten.smugmug.com and Matt Frederick’s work at themirrorpool.smugmug.com.
Photo by Matt Frederick
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Summer 2016 Issue:
Feeding off the success of the previous year, the annual Lone Star Toyota Jamboree hit another homerun with over 500 people in attendance. A total of 320 Toyota Trucks and 46 sponsors made for a spectacular event at Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area OHV Park, including “a raffle surpassing $50,000 in value” according to organizer Chris Gray.
1)Blind Man’s Bluff where driver is blindfolded and completely dependent on the passenger serving as the co-pilot.
2)Rock Garden Crawl where distance accomplished determines the winner for each tire size classification.
3)The return of the Timed Obstacle Course where going airborne can be to the driver’s advantage.
It was a very emotional time for longtime Jamboree organizers after learning a long time Toyota Trail Riders club member and Jambo attendee, Angie R., was having a rough time in her fight with cancer. The Jambo staff had already chosen breast cancer combatant organization called Women Rock, Inc. as the recipient of charity contributions, and had raised $7888 for their efforts. Upon hearing an update during the raffle from friend, Butch Baker, of Angie's fight, the Toyota crowd came together and raised an additional $3000, including a $1000 donation straight from Jamboree itself, togo directly to the Rushing family! Several raffle winners even donated their items back to be auctioned off for money to be donated. It was heart moving and emotional time to see this outpouring of support. In total, Women Rock raised $10,958 at the 11th Annual Lone Star Toyota Jamboree!
The dates for Jamboree next year are May 4-7, 2017. If you have not yet visited the giant BMRA off-road park in the eastern Piney Woods of Texas, shoot for next year by attending Lone Star Toyota jabmoree. You don’t want to miss this great event.
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The more time we spend with our four-legged travel partners in the outdoors, the more we exposure them to injury. Even a minor pet injury can ruin an adventure and there is nothing worse than seeing your pet limp in pain. I have had to deal with burrs, impaled object, large lacerations, and both heat exposure and borderline hypothermia in my dogs. Even though there are plenty of kits you can buy on-line, I believe in putting your own kit together, simply then you know what is in it. I also think when conditions allow, keep the kit on your dog. This way the kit is within reach of the pup at all times. Second, if for any reason you and your dog are separated, there is a kit handy for the person on hand working with your pup’s injuries.
We have a main kit for the house, one in the rig, and then a small field kit that goes a doggie daypack with smaller quantities that are re-packed and well labeled. I will only list out only the items that goes in our kit that the pups pack with them. We have larger pups, so if your adventure pup is a small breed, well you get to hike with the kit. In other words, no K9 EMT kits on your Mini-Rat Terrier. I will cover what to carry for your pup in your rig later. Something to keep in mind, if out adventuring in hooter temps, then your pup is going to overheat, even if hanging out in your rig.
We highly recommend that you seek out classes that are specific to first-aid for dogs. Get a good solid field manual to keep with the kit. Finally, dogs are different from us two-legged- human medicine unless noted is not for puppy consumption.
BIG DISCLAIMER— THIS IS MY LIST YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR CONSULTING YOUR OWN VET. WE DO NOT ACCEPT ANY RESPONSIBLITY FOR YOUR ACTIONS OR ACTIONS TAKEN ON BEHALF OF THIS LIST
•K9 EMT Gel- This stuff interacts with the wound and maintains much-needed moisture that helps a wound in healing. In addition, it acts as a tissue adhesive to help prevent bacterial infection. It also reduces bleeding and pain. Keep it current though, it will expire.
•Tweezers- When your pup is hurt and you are trying to remove a sliver, they don’t always hold still. One poke with sharp or pointed objects and your pal will not likely lay still for you again. I use flat slant tipped tweezers.
•Scissors- I carry both small dull-ended snips and EMT shears. The small snips are excellent for trimming out goat heads in the fur areas in the paws or burrs on the belly. EMT shears are good for cutting medical tape.
•Tick Removal Tool. These are designed to remove nasty ticks, which, if left in, can lead to infection or worse, diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever or Lyme’s.
•4×4 Gauze Pads and 4” Rolled Gauze. •Hibitane Disinfectant- Learn to use BEFORE you use it
•Saline solution. We live in a sandy area and this is great to get dust and sand out of the eyes. Can also be used to clean wounds. DO NOT USE Contact solution.
•Benadryl- Trigger bit a wasp one day- and I was pretty worried that he was going to swell up and not breathe. A fellow vet-tech of Melissa’s gave him a Benadryl. It reduced the swelling, keeping his airway open...and put him to sleep. Antihistamines can be used to calm itchiness, swelling, and hives caused by insects, but, as with any medication, please with your vet for dosage.
•Antibacterial Wipes or skin soap.
•Bag Balm/Skin & Paw Cream – When feet get torn up. Keep it in a labeled zip-tight bag.
•Rectal Thermometer. A dog’s average is around 101°F.
•Petroleum Jelly. For use with the thermometer...and be sure to scratch your pup’s ears after the intrusion....
•Emergency numbers- I keep three sets of numbers in my kit. My regular vet, the 24-hour vet, ad then when traveling, numbers of vets at each destination.
•Emergency contact numbers. The digits for your vet, the closest animal emergency hospital, and the poison control hotline.
•Triangle Bandage to use as a muzzle
•Corn- starch- To stop bleeding of nails (not wounds) that have been broken or cut to the quick.
•Small Space-Blanket (Compact Size)
First Aid Manual for Dogs (small pocket-sized)
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Summer 2016 Issue:
The larger-than-life 7-inch HD screen of the TRX7 GPS Navigator may seem burdensome, especially compared with rival units that typically hover in the 5-inch realm of screen size. The overall dimensions of the device are 8.5” x 5.25”. This takes up a serious amount of real estate space when attached to the windshield. Start driving on a trail while the new TRX7 is displaying the route, and the seemingly inconvenient size is soon replaced by the easy-to-see screen. The included heavy duty RAM mount securely holds the TRX7 as the vehicle bounces down the trail.
I had the opportunity to use the device on two separate off-road trips. For an overland trip across NM and AZ en route to Overland Expo, I accessed the Magellan eXplorist TRX website for route planning, and stored the routes on the device. For the Big Bend National Park trip, I recorded trail routes.
Functionality and features:
-Web browser with tabs
-Email -Contacts storage
-Music player and storage, complete with organizer
-Calendar -Sound recorder
-Ability to toggle open screens
-Searchable OHV trails database
-Social media connectivity for sharing travels
-Off trail warnings and return-to-start safety features
-Preloaded with 44,000 designated OHV trails from forest and public lands
-High-res 3D terrain view and 2D topo view with contour lines display U.S./CAN land features
From a visual usability perspective, the map contrast and color schemes surpass other navigation systems and apps. The helpful geography texture really stands out. The layout of the map and route details in a split screen mode is quite useful.
For planning routes, using the Magellan eXplorist website, mytrxjournal.com, was easy to figure out. Upon completion of route planning, syncing the device over wifi loads the maps onto the device. Already have a GPS file you want to load? Just upload the GPX or KML file to the mytrxjournal.com website, then sync the device.
Crowdsourced route submissions will expand the trail database over time. The data set is still young, but with the recent release of the tablet/smartphone app, the database should grow exponentially as app adoption increases.
Several options are available for making updates to routes: mark observations using audio, photos, or waypoints; record track conditions and difficulty ratings. Achievements can be earned for recording off-road miles, visiting locations, and hitting certain OHV trails.
I usually navigate with a Garmin Nuvi 50LM mounted to the windshield and a full-sized iPad held by a floor-mounted RAM mount, placing the iPad just above the shifter. The tablet-like functionality of the TRX7 certainly separates it from the Nuvi. The question is, does the TRX7 replace the iPad? The TRX7 large screen and ease of touchscreen usage are what I deemed most helpful. However, with a limited storage of 13GB, this device is barely a tablet. Now that the Magellan TRX app, complete with access to the Magellan database, is available for tablets, the TRX7 may not fill a void for the off-roader who prefers a device with more functionality, map app options, and LTE data connectivity.
For the off-roader who is content with wifi-only and requires a serious navigation system with limited tablet-like functionality, rugged construction, and the ability to plan and record routes, the TRX7 will suffice. With the ability to notate route details and difficulty ratings, incorporate GPS files, and enjoy a large screen, the TRX7 rates higher than the other dedicated navigation systems available. No other device on the market today is OHV oriented like the TRX7.
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Summer 2016 Issue:
Ok, so this is more of a 32,000 and some change update, but 30K makes a better title :) Angie & I have been publishing Toyota Cruisers & Trucks, along with the previous incarnations of the magazine, for nearly 10 years now. In that time, I have known two basic truths. First, I never know exactly where the next adventure will take us. Secondly, our 2015 CrewMax Tundra has all the capability our family needs but also includes a level of utility that no other vehicle can come close to matching.
Ive talked about the value of a true pickup truck in previous articles, so I wont belabor the point. Much.
This truck is...amazing.
At 30,000+ miles we have literally done everything with this truck. The Toyota marketing term build anything is not lost on our beloved Tundra. Weve built, pulled, hauled, wheeled, and explored quite a bit in the first 18 months of ownership. Yet as 2016 started I wondered....what else can she do?
Modifications in the past six months cant match the breadth of our initial build up (See our Fall 2015 issue for our previous build article), but the little tweaks weve added have helped round out the truck in terms of utility and convenience.
Earlier this year I did some major electrical work on the truck. While I didnt install a second battery, Ive been able to make use of our ArkPak Battery system via a custom mount in the bed of the truck. This runs the bed mounted fridge perfectly and provides easy access to 12v power.
In the cab, I installed the Yaesue FTM-400DR ham radio, mostly for APRS and on-trail comms. I also added a Uniden 40CH CB radio so I can chat with...others. The CB uses a passenger side mounted 2 Firestik while I added a 1/4 wave Diamond Antenna on the drivers side for the ham.
A 1200 Pure Sine inverter is hard-wired to the battery and mounted under the drivers seat. I added a custom 12V/USB/DC readout box as well. This setup makes it easy to monitor the trucks battery and provides in-cab access to full-time power.
Since I've become increasingly involved with a certain Australian mapping company (Hema Maps is also an advertiser in our magazine), I added a Samsung tablet for regular mapping apps, as well as a Ram iPhone mount to the windshield. The suction cups on these mounts have held up perfectly on all but the hottest of days. A Karma Go WiFi puck rounds out the front-dash to provide nearly full-time internet access to any device within range. Finally, the crew over at Ellis Precision fabbed up a custom TCT shifter for the truck. The billet aluminum knob is a huge upgrade over stock.
On the outside of the truck, we ditched the nice-but-boring stock headlights & tail lights in favor of a nice setup from Anzo USA. The LED tail lights are nice & bright, with a black style that give the truck a more aggressive appearance. In the front, we opted for a similar set of black projector U-Bar headlights. Theyre DRL compatible and look great on the TCT Explorer!
In June 2016, I attended Bill Burkes Advanced 4WD training course in the mountains west of Denver, Colorado. During the two day event, we took the Tundra (the largest vehicle in attendance by a long shot) through difficult, narrow, and winding trails. It performed beautifully with no body damage to report. That trip really showed me what the Tundra + Toytec BOSS Suspension is truly capable of.
That trip was also the maiden voyage of the new TCT Minnie, a 24 Winnebago travel trailer thats our new condo on wheels. While a departure from our old Manley ORV trailer tent setup, with two young children in tow, the Minnie has allowed us to explore Colorado more than ever. The big 5.7L V-8 provides plenty of power to pull the 6,000+lb trailer, but a supercharger would be very beneficial <grin>.
At FJ Summit X last month, the TCT Explorer tackled Mineral Creek, Engineer Pass, California & Corkscrew Gulches, and Imogene Pass. The big red truck took everything we could throw at it and came out smiling. Angie lead an amazing group of women over the Mineral Creek -> Cali/Corkscrew trail run and everyone had an amazing time!
While I know 4Runners, Land Cruisers, FJs, and Tacos are generally the favorite for Toyota Adventure & exploration, Ive recently noticed a trend toward full-size vehicles. Unless youre into hard-core rock crawling, the power, room, and utility of the 2.5 Gen Tundra cannot be overstated. It continues to be the perfect all-around truck for our family, and I look forward to many more years in the TCT Explorer Tundra!
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Summer 2016 Issue:
While out storm chasing in his own 4Runner, Senior Editor Phillip Jones came across this well-built 4Runner and met the owner, who is a seasoned storm chaser. Phillip invited Brandon to submit an article about his build and his chasing experience.
4Runner Build List
-2014 4 Runner Trail Premium
-Nitto Trail Grapplers tires
-Custom front/rear bumpers/skid plate
-LED lit steps in back
-10,000 lb waterproof winch
-Rigid LED’s in front/back and underneath
-ChargeGuard (for electronics)
-Optima Yellowtop battery
-RAM Laptop mount
-Kicker sound system with new L7 QB8 in back
When I went in search of a 4Runner, I found an Oklahoma City-based dealership that did a lot of modifications to the dealer’s 4Runner inventory. Seeing those decked out rides got the gears in my head turning. My 2014 4Runner already came with the big wheels, tinted windows, and nice powder coating on the logos. It was the rolling definition of blacked out! After purchasing my 4Runner, I definitely knew I wanted an LED light bar. They were growing popular on off-road vehicles and I wanted to fit in! Getting one put into the grill wasn’t going to be easy. I considered a grill guard, but it seemed grill guards really offered no protection. If I was going to spend money, I may as well do it right! I located a steel fabrication shop in Lubbock, TX named Fearless Fabrication and let them have it for a week. They put together the plans for the bumper, lighting, and other items.
During the previous week, I was storm chasing in Colorado. My friend got stuck in the mud as a tornado was barreling down on us. I had him jump in my 4Runner, and we were able to escape. That was the day I knew I had picked the right vehicle. We later tried to extract his vehicle with a simple tow rope we found at a gas station, but it didn’t work. This incident served as motivation to purchase a winch, which has come in handy.
The original plan was to only do the front bumper, but the shop owner talked me into the rear bumper as well. I am certainly glad I took his advice because shortly afterward, I was rear-ended by a drunk driver. My 4Runner experienced zero damage.
I have always been in some sort of off-road vehicle for storm chasing, mostly out of necessity. We encounter terrible road conditions in rural areas where dirt roads can instantly turn into mud pits due to flash flooding. Fallen trees and downed power poles sometimes require going through a ditch to maneuver around. Debris and/or high water require adequate clearance. Sometimes, there isn’t even a road. Sometimes we turn around and the road we were just on has transformed into an obstacle course. A coating of hail can make for slippery traction.
Before my I purchased the 4Runner, I had 2 different Jeeps, and a GMC Envoy. The 4Runner by far has received the most investment in modifications. I know it will hold great durability and value.
At a young age, long before I was interested in off-road vehicles, I grew interested in weather. It wasn’t until I was in high school that I became interested in storm chasing. In 2008, at the age of 17, I went on my first big chasing trip. We drove from to Kansas from Illinois and spent a week chasing tornadoes. After that, I was hooked. I enrolled in the University of Oklahoma in 2010 to study meteorology and earned my degree in 2014. That educational experience only took me deeper into chasing, because I could see all of the classroom and textbook knowledge unfolding in the field.
My wildest storm chasing adventure was in 2013, during the El Reno, OK tornado on May 31st. We got caught in the outer circulations of the tornado, and a barn was destroyed in front of us, sending flying debris into my car. My windshield was shattered, a hay bale tossed into my car, destroying my front end, and all the paint wiped off the passenger side of my car. It was both a horrifying and humbling experience.
I’d love to do go off-roading with my rig. So many times I see other Toyota owners who drool over my ride and ask if I go off-roading, and I have to let them down! I’d love to go somewhere super remote and scenic, like Utah, climb over some rocks, and get to some places that nobody else could really get to!
You can follow Brandon’s Storm Chasing adventures on social media:
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Summer 2016 Issue:
Five years ago, the Tacomas and Company group started “a Moab adventure created by wheelers for wheelers” later to be called Rock Therapy. The gathering is based on their love for Moab and wanting to pull together other likeminded Toyota enthusiasts to help strengthen the off-road community. With the help of hard working volunteers, loyal attendees and generous sponsors who have shown a common goal to help build relations around the off-road community, Rock Therapy 2016 was again a huge success and will continue to be a must-attend gathering for the ever growing Rock Therapy Family.
In an effort to provide a memorable experience for the attendees, Rock Therapy’s platinum sponsors stepped up to host two nights of dinners for those who could make it back to camp at Area BFE. Toytec Lifts, Bay Area Metal Fabrication, Pelfreybilt Off-Road, All-Pro Off Road, Low Range Off Road, CBI Off Road Fab, InSain Fabrication, and Cascadia Vehicle Tents each pitched in to make sure the hungry wheelers did not go to bed with an empty stomach with backyard style BBQs both Friday and Saturday night.
Unlike years past, the carnage during Rock Therapy 2016 was on a much lower scale. Less carnage meant more time spent on the trails for all attendees, sponsors and volunteers. Many of the sponsors and volunteer trail leaders took out attendees on the trails to show off the variety of trails that Moab has to offer. Rock Therapy has encouraged attendees over the years to mingle with other attendees to form their own groups to roll with each day which has helped to strengthen the Rock Therapy Family and build relationships that last for years to come.
A concept that Rock Therapy has pushed over the years is to get the sponsors out and enjoy themselves alongside their many loyal customers. Gold sponsors, SDHQ Off Road, and Trail Toys were both in attendance this year showing off their incredible Tacoma builds. Cliff brought his 2008 Tacoma that is built to handle high speed desert passes as well as crawling through the rocks with the best of them. Cliff was able to show off the truck’s true potential during the annual Dunes run on Friday night.
Nathan had his 2011 flatbed Tacoma out to his the trails in fashion with his newly installed crawlbox and always impressive travel gained from a Chevy 63 swap in the rear. Trail Toys also brought another game changer to this year’s Rock Therapy with the addition of a limited run of Rock Therapy 2016 glow in the dark patches.
Also in attendance this year as sponsors was Trails Offroad spreading the word on their new web-based nation-wide trail knowledgebase, Hefty Fabworks showing off their new line of aluminum bumpers on their Toyota fleet, Brute Force Fab dominating the trails in Billy’s solid axle beast of a Tacoma on 42s, Adventure Offroad Fabrications displaying his solid axled 2nd gen overlanding Tacoma and Front Range Off-Road Fab with their 1996 4Runner with an 8” 30 spline IFS swap rolling on 37s.
Saturday night came too soon this year as attendees did not want memorable times to come to an end. However, the sponsors were able to pull together some amazing items again this year to giveaway and help raise some money to support two amazing organizations that have done so much to promote the off-road community over the years. Stay the Trail Colorado over the many years has encouraged the responsible use of the roads and trails that are open to motorized recreation in Colorado. Although their focus is primarily in Colorado, their message is one that should be spread all over to help us keep trail access open. Area BFE helped to rethink what an off-road park should be with their 320 acre recreational park. Open to a variety of outdoor activities including many iconic off-road trails and camping with unmatched views of the La Sal Mountains, Area BFE is open to the public 365 days at no cost to the public.
On behalf of all those in attendance, thank you to all those who helped to put this amazing gathering together and to the generous sponsors mentioned above as well as Addicted Offroad, RCI Offroad, Rokmen Offroad, Anti-Dark, Toywerx, Rorck Apparel and IH8MUD. Without your efforts, Rock Therapy would not be what it is today. See everyone next year!
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Summer 2016 Issue:
If you are like me, you don’t have $50-$80k to spend on a new vehicle to take into the backcountry. I don’t have that kind of money for a vehicle—period. For many of us, we have a certain aging truck or SUV (preferably Toyota) that we use to explore the wilds for a day, weekend, or an extended period of time. We buy this or that modification to improve the vehicle and the overlanding experience. However, the key is to not go broke doing so. There are SO many things you can purchase for your vehicle in today’s market that if you’re not careful, you’ll spend excess money and possibly have unnecessary modifications. So, what to buy? What to avoid?
I love to explore the deserts of Utah and Arizona. During the summer months, I travel to mountainous states like Wyoming, Colorado, and Idaho; usually with my wife and daughter. Our trips consist of many weekend jaunts and a few multi-week trips each year. We roughly spend 50-60 nights camping and exploring. The roads we take are generally dirt/gravel with limited slow, rock crawling type of driving. My vehicle of choice is a 1999 Toyota Land Cruiser. I purchased it with 130k miles, and it recently just passed 180k miles. So, what does my vehicle need? What would help us enjoy overlanding even more and want to continue to do it?
I placed a call to my friend and owner of Cruiser Outfitters, Kurt Williams. Kurt is very knowledgeable on overlanding and was willing to share his thoughts and advice on what my truck might need and how to get it installed. I asked Kurt, What are two things every overlander should buy? Without much of a pause, Kurt replied, First, suspension upgrade...the vehicle will be carrying more weight. Second, a refrigerator... to keep food fresh and ready. He has traveled on five continents through different environments and has first-hand knowledge of what works on vehicles and what doesn’t. His exploits have been seen as part of the Expeditions 7 (expeditions7.com), and he is the reality star in the Youtube series, Expedition Overland (xoverland.com). Kurt states: The biggest mistake I have seen is owners not taking trips or adventures because their vehicle doesn’t have all of the latest modifications. The other mistake is that people modify their vehicles with substandard parts. The whole goal of an overland vehicle is to take people to remote places and adventures and to bring them back! Make the vehicle the most reliable it can be."
What makes the overlanding community so unique and fun is that everyone’s ride has a rhyme or a reason. Why did I choose Toyota? What made me install rock sliders? What made me choose a ground tent versus a RTT? All of us have our reasons; and below I share mine. Agree? Disagree? No worries. My hope is to make you think and ponder future decisions before dropping some coin. Here is my rationale on purchases and some examples of those.
Functional:Add something to the vehicle that will help it function better. Three prime examples of this are the ARB Outback Drawers, the multifunctional electrical outlet, and the Slee rock sliders. My drawers serve to organize food, gear, and tools. I also added two USB ports and a 12v socket. Sure, this modification isn’t flashy or glamorous; but with today’s technology, I am always recharging something. I needed some rock sliders but wanted something that I could stand on as well to access my roof rack. Slee Offroad from Golden, CO, is a Land Cruiser outfitter; and the step rock sliders they make are perfect. The sliders do the job, in terms of protecting the body with solid functionality as a step to access my items on my roof rack.
Atheistic: Yep, I said it. It’s my vehicle. Does it look good and cool to me? I am the one driving it. It would be crazy for me not to be happy with my ride. I remembered that when I was shopping for a rear bumper and shopped the usual suspects such as Slee, ARB, etc. However, I really didn’t like the looks of them. Just a personal thing. I did like the looks of the rear bumper by Bump It Off Road. I called Mike Smith, the owner, to discuss some custom options I wanted. Within a month, it was shipped to Cruiser Outfitters. Kurt and I installed it, and I couldn’t be happier. It just looked better in my opinion. Personalize your vehicle, whatever your definition, and you will be happy with the end product.
Reliable: Things will get damaged and break, which might jeopardize an entire trip. When I get stuck in a tough spot and all I need is a simple winch extraction, it would be a bummer if my winch didn’t work. The money I would have saved buying the Chinese winch becomes meaningless. If something does break from one of the big companies, they are usually more than willing to warranty an item or make the situation right. Kurt mentioned, One advantage to the big companies is that they do a great deal of product testing before hitting the market. Granted, we all want to save some money, but do yourself a favor and buy products from reliable companies.
One product that comes to mind is an ARB air front locker. There are many lockers out there, but I needed one that I could count on without worry. It’s not something I use every day or even every trip. But, when I need it...it’s ready to go.
Practical: This refers to my vehicle’s needs for what I’m asking it to do. For example, I followed Kurt’s advice and had Cruiser Outfitters install an ARB Old Man Emu suspension to my Land Cruiser. ARB makes different spring weight rates, and I went with the heavy springs. I always think about what modifications I foresee in the future. The ARB suspension improved my vehicle’s ride greatly and handled the weight without issue. My vehicle needs certain things depending on what I’m asking it to do.
The other modification that falls into this category is the 12-volt refrigerator. Simple, practical modifications are just that—simple. But, they make such a difference overlanding. I had heard all the hype on these for a year or two before I took the plunge. Wow, how did I travel without one before? I purchased an ARB 50 Quart fridge from Cruiser Outfitters, and they installed it within an hour. The fridge is a game changer for me. I’m not concerned about buying ice at the next stop; and more importantly, I can carry tasty, healthy, fresh food. I think it should be your first or second purchase!
I recently got back from four weeks of traveling. Throughout my time, I got stopped many times by people asking questions about my vehicle and the modifications. There might be no right or wrong answers. However, here are a few cautions from Kurt. Don’t let waiting to modify your vehicle stop you from going on your next adventure. Also, always consider the weight you are adding to your vehicle because handling and braking will be affected.
My decisions and purchases span a four-year period. This gave me time to process decisions on expenses, listen to and read about other people’s experiences, and save the necessary money. Give the guys at Cruiser Outfitters a call. They would be happy to answer your questions and overhaul your ride for your next overland adventure. See you out there...
Contacts and Information
A Salt Lake City, Utah company since 1992. One of the largest ARB dealers in the US. Direct importer of parts from Japan and Australia. Specializing in the Toyota Land Cruiser platform. Over 3,000 parts in stock and shipped daily.
Bump It Off Road
Located in Colorado. Mike specializes in custom steel fabrication. Bumpers, sliders, etc. Got an idea, give him a shout!
888 4X4-Slee (US Only)
888 494-7533 303 278-8287
Located in Golden, Colorado. Slee Offroad specializes in all things Land Cruiser. They make some of their own custom parts for the 80, 100, and 200 series.
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If you spend any amount of time on YouTube watching Australian off-road videos, like I do, you have heard them mention “Touring.”
Touring is how the Aussies refer to what’s known here in the US as “overlanding”. This type of off-road travel has exploded in recent years. Fading away are the buildup of rock crawlers in favor of vehicles that have every piece of kit possible to survive the zombie apocalypse, or the weekend car camping trip.
A natural result of prepping a vehicle for touring is that a lot of weight is added by way of steel bumpers, a winch, drawers, dual batteries, skid plates, a roof rack, roof top tent, water tank, a fridge, and many other things. That’s in addition to the personal gear that gets packed each trip.
With the increased weight, especially on an already heavy 80 Series Land Cruiser, the need for appropriate suspension is critical. A suspension with adequate load capacity and ride quality that is comfortable enough to not wear you out after a long day of driving long dirt tracks. The Aussies have been “touring” for a long time and developing suspension for Cruisers for just as long. Darren McRae of the Autocraft workshop fame, is a long time 80 Series guru who has been pushing the limits of these cruisers and building custom suspensions for them for more than 2 two decades. He has recently been perfecting a complete suspension system, called Slinky Long Travel, for the 80 Series. He is now bringing it to the U.S. through Redline Land Cruisers of Colorado.
I’ve been driving an 80 Series on and off-road since 2000. I’ve had a fair amount of time in 80s other than my own and have experienced just about all of the most common different bolt-on suspension options available in North America. When I heard about the Slinky Long Travel system coming to the US I was very interested. It had an innovative design that set it apart from everything else I’d seen. I now have had two months with the Slinky Long Travel system on my 80 and this is without question the best bolt-on suspension setup I’ve ever experienced on an 80.
Instead of getting technical, I’ll briefly describe the components and then give my review and thoughts on its performance in a variety of terrain. For technical information check out the Redline Land Cruisers website for specs and options. There is also information on this suspension on the IH8MUD forum.
First I want to break down what makes this system different from other coil and shock offerings that use the factory coil buckets and shock mounts. The “Slinky” Long Travel coils have a unique dual-rate coil design. What does that mean? Basically you get a coil with two different spring rates, a part of the coil with a lighter spring rate for a smooth ride and for absorbing the small bumps, and a part of the coil with a stiffer spring rate for better load capacity and for absorbing the big bumps. The top few winds of the coils also compress almost completely at normal ride height and then open up with the suspension is flexed. The result is increased down travel, and also keeps the coil from dropping out with the longer shocks. More importantly, there is still force pushing the tires to the ground even when it’s at the limit of droop. That means better traction. The coils are available in a 50mm, 70mm and 75mm increase in height and with Intermediate and Heavy spring rates. The 75mm (3”) kit is adequate to fit 35” tires and yet keeps a low center of gravity, gives a great ride with excellent travel from the extra droop and 14” long travel shocks. 37” tires can be fitted with an extra 1” added to the bump stops. In conjunction with the innovative coil design, Autocraft has partnered with Icon Vehicle Dynamics to create the custom built high quality Icon suspension tuned to Autocraft specs.
A Stage One kit includes four Slinky coils and Autocraft 2.0 smooth body emulsion shocks. The Stage Two and Three kits use a different combination of coils and shocks with an upgrade to Autocraft 2.5 bypass shocks. The Stage Four kit upgrades the shocks again to an Autocraft 2.5 bypass shock with CDC adjustability so the user can independently tune compression and rebound with the twist of a knob. All kits also include bump stops, sway bar extensions, brake lines and caster correction bushings.
I installed the Stage One kit on my 80 in Moab at the start of Cruise Moab. Then I spent time on the trails with Darren, Justin from Redline, and with Woody from IH8MUD, who all have the Stage 4 kits. I pushed the suspension through moderate higher speed trails with ruts and whoops, and crawled in the rocks. The Slinky I replaced another popular Australian suspension system sold in the U.S., and S. I could tell a big improvement immediately after getting behind the wheel following installation. with the Slinky suspension installed.
After 16 years of owning an 80, I am once again looking for reasons to drive my 80 as often as possible – because it’s just so much fun to drive with the new suspension. So here’s my review of the Stage One Kit. I plan to have a follow-up article sometime soon after upgrading to the Stage Four CDC shocks so that I can give a comparison between the more basic kit and the top-of-the-line setup.
The Slinky Kits use the tagline “#ultimatetourer” referring to them as the ultimate suspension for touring or overlanding, so let’s talk about that type of travel first: primarily moderate to higher speed rocky dirt tracks with ruts and whoops, along with corrugated fire roads. Without question, this is where I saw the biggest improvements. The Autocraft tuning on the Icon 2.0 shocks with the valving used smooths out small bumps and corrugations, and increased valving deeper in the stroke absorbs the big rocks and whoops at higher speeds. Trail irregularities were smoothed dramatically. The body of my 80 remained much more composed and settled without any of the jerks or feeling of being “launched” off a bump that I was accustomed to. As a result I was immediately more confident at higher speeds because the truck felt much more controlled. I didn’t feel like I was wrestling the suspension to keep the truck going where I wanted it to go. The rebound on the 2.0 shocks is just about perfect.
Personally, I wanted a little higher compression because since I was now carrying more speed. At higher speeds, the big bumps were transferring more force to the suspension than they would at lower speeds and the big whoops would occasionally overwhelm the shocks hitting the bump stops, so I would have to slow down a little. Maybe that isn’t a bad thing, but if I had any complaint about the Slinky Long Travel Stage One kit, that was it. But that’s the beauty of the Stage 4 kit – you can make real-time adjustments to the shocks to for your driving style. When I got a bit of time behind the wheel of Darren’s 80 with the suspension with all the bells and whistles, I could tell right away his shocks were set with a slightly stiffer valving and it felt great. Overland trips vary. Sometimes you carry a lot of gear and sometimes you carry less. The differences in weight changes how the suspension behaves and the adjustability would be a welcome feature.
So how were they in the rocks? It was not as easy to get a sense of the differences when crawling in the rocks at low speeds. My 80 felt more stable. The body remained flatter in off camber, cross axle ditches and rocks. I saw an increase in suspension travel, most of it in down travel. I was coming from a 3.5” suspension lift with 2” coil spacers and extended bump stops. With the Slinky coils I lost roughly 2” of ride height, which improved center of gravity, and yet with the change in bump stop, the removal of the coil spacers, and the increased down travel of the new coils, I gained roughly 6” of suspension travel. So while the suspension is targeting overlanders, it’s equally at home in the rocks. More travel, better center of gravity, a more controlled and smoother ride was giving my 80 improvements in all the important aspects of a quality suspension. I had a smile on my face the entire time during Cruise Moab as I got used to this new suspension. I took several 80 owners for rides and within the first minute of being in my truck they all said the same thing, “I gotta get this stuff!”
On the road, the suspension feels firm, but comfortable. It’s not so soft that you feel like it floats. Just as it does in the dirt, it handles bumps and potholes without jarring feedback and keeps the body relatively flat through corners. It feels planted and firm giving feedback from the road surface. It’s difficult to accurately describe what the ride feels like but consistently, when anyone got a chance to experience it first-hand, they understood what the excitement was all about. Is the Slinky Long Travel suspension the Ultimate Overland Suspension? Maybe. It is clearly the best bolt-on suspension I’ve experienced in an 80, albeit though with a few minor shortcomings with the Stage One kit, but that could be attributed to my personal driving style. Overall, I’ve been extremely pleased and have enjoyed my 80 on a whole new level. If you’re an 80 owner looking for a new suspension for your build, or an upgrade from your current setup, I think it’s worth a look at the Slinky Long Travel Kits.
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